HOW TO PRACTICE Seated Forward Bend Pose IN YOGA (Paschimottanasana)
Benefits, How to Instructions, Modifications, and Common Alignment Mistakes for Seated Forward Bend Pose
Seated Forward Bend (Sanskrit name: Paschimottanasana) may look like a simple yoga pose, but this is a case where looks can truly deceive. It requires patience and humility to practice safely and effectively.
One of the most noticeable effects of this asana is that it soothes internal energy. After a long day, a strenuous practice, or before bed, Seated Forward Bend can elicit a welcome sense of ease. The degree of ease and calm you feel in the yoga posture depends on the degree to which you are able to relax in the pose. So don’t be shy about using whatever yoga props you need when you practice this seated forward bend.
It’s important to understand that while any forward bend can offer a lovely cooling and calming quality, this yoga pose may be counter-indicated for your body if you have some types of disc issues.
In addition, if your hamstrings are short or inflexible, you must pay close attention to the cues your body is sending. Because the yoga posture requires you to place the bulk of your weight on your pelvis and bend forward, tightness in the backs of your legs can hamper your ability to rotate in your pelvis and hinge from your hips. As a result, you may end up sitting on your sacrum instead of your sitting bones, a situation that can cause issues up and down the kinetic chain. Propping your hips up with a blanket will help, as will remembering that getting your head to your knees is not the point of the asana.
Finding inner peace happens by becoming more present with the here and now, with “what is.” Having long, flexible hamstrings and getting your forehead to touch your knees or shins doesn’t miraculously transport you to a land of tranquility. Rather, accepting where you are and being patient with the process allows your body to generate waves of peace and calm. This is how you should approach all asanas, and is a guide for your life off the yoga mat as well.
Benefits of Seated Forward Bend Pose
Like all forward bends, Paschimottanasana is abundant with benefits for the body and mind. Paschimottanasana stretches the hamstrings and spine, and calms the mind and nervous system. All forward bending poses have the capacity to provide a soothing and grounding feeling, and are a wonderful way to end your yoga practice, help you fall asleep at night, and relax after a busy day. When practiced with a “yin” (passive) intention versus a “yang” (aggressive) one, and initiating the movement in a way that nourishes your spine and protects your body from harm, forward bends can be the highlight of your yoga practice or even your day.
How to do Seated Forward Bend Pose
- Sit on a yoga mat or blanket with your legs stretched out in front of you. Have an extra firm blanket or two handy.
- Now feel your lower spine with your fingers. Is your lower spine bowing outward so that you can feel the knobby spinous processes? If so, fold one of your extra blankets and place it under your pelvis to tilt your spine forward. Check your spine again, and add another blanket if necessary.
- Bend both knees, draw them up and fold your forearms under them. On an exhalation, slide your feet forward and bend your torso forward from the pelvis so that your pelvis and back move forward together.
- With your knees still bent, rest your torso on your legs. Don’t worry about how much your knees are bent. Take a few deep breaths in this position, expanding your whole back body with your inhalations.
- As you exhale, let go of resistance in your shoulders, neck, and head. It is important to remember that surrendering into a pose means that you relax into the pose you are currently in, whether or not that surrender brings your head closer to your knees.
- Feel free to stay in this position, with your knees bent and your forearms folded under them, for 5 to 10 breaths. Practicing this way places much less stress on the lower back and sacroiliac joints.
- If you like, you may slide your forearms out from under your knees and stretch your legs out straight. Reach out and hold your feet or use a yoga strap to connect your hands to them. Maintain slow, deep, continuous breathing.
- After 5 to 10 breaths, on an inhalation draw the pelvis and torso back to vertical.
- Be present with whatever sensations are arising. What do you feel? What happened in the forward bend? How did it change you?